Congress Plans Legislation to Prevent Car Rental Companies from Renting Vehicles that Have Been Recalled

Most of us assume that when we rent a car, the vehicle has been inspected and is safe for us to drive. Unfortunately, some car rental agencies have made cars available to customers even after these vehicles have been recalled for safety reasons. Now a move is under way in Congress to require rental agencies to repair autos that are under manufacturers’ recall before renting or selling them.

The fight for the proposed law is being led by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. She said Hertz has agreed to the pledge, but other major companies such as Enterprise, Avis and Dollar Thrifty, have resisted.

“Our families deserve a permanent commitment to safety,” said Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees highway policy. “Until they sign the pledge, tell your families not to go to those companies.”

The story was reported in USA Today.

The effort to pass new legislation stems from a 2004 accident involving the two young daughters of Cally Houck. Her daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, died when they lost control of a PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise that was under recall. The car crashed into a semi-tractor trailer. “My daughters died instantly in a fireball,” Houck says. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

Enterprise, which also operates as National and Alamo, controls more than half the rental car market in the country, with $14 billion in revenue in 2011, according to Boxer. The company’s chief executive, Andrew Taylor, told Boxer in a letter that the company has a policy not to rent or sell at retail “any vehicles subject to a recall notice until the recall has been remedied.” In selling damaged vehicles at wholesale, Taylor says, Enterprise alerts dealers or auctions when a recall hasn’t been remedied.

Dollar Thrifty has never had a serious injury arise from failing to address a safety recall, according to a June 5 letter from CEO Scott Thompson. Dollar Thrifty, which Boxer says has 7 percent of the market for $1.5 billion, told her it repairs all vehicles before selling them.

Boxer complained that the companies’ statements were riddled with loopholes that could put drivers behind the wheel of unsafe cars. She is drafting legislation that would give the pledge the force of law and expects to complete it within weeks. She added that the bill will be “fast moving” through Congress.

Rental companies such as Dollar Thrifty contend that any legislation affecting rental cars should apply to all for-hire vehicles, such as taxis, and any bill about sales should apply to all used-car dealers. Boxer said those changes would complicate a simple bill.

Sean Kane, president of consumer-advocacy group Safety, Research & Strategies of Rehoboth, Mass., praised Boxer’s persistence, saying customers expect rental companies to maintain their cars.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling personal injury matters, car crashes, truck accidents and protecting the safety of individuals and families for more than 36 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Zion, North Chicago, Evanston, Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Park Forest, Glendale Heights and Elmwood Park, Ill.

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